After setback, UM not ready to ‘fall off the ship’
Ann Arbor — Michigan is coming off a brutal loss at second-ranked Penn State and has now fallen from the top-25 rankings with two losses, both in the Big Ten.
The Wolverines are now in circle-the-wagon mode, understanding that there is plenty of negativity circulating outside the walls of Schembechler Hall but rightfully unwilling to slip into that quagmire.
They are preparing to face Rutgers on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, and then have another home game a week later against Minnesota, in what has been announced as a night game. Their final three games are at Maryland, then at No. 5 Wisconsin before returning home to face No. 6 Ohio State in the regular-season finale.
“We’re definitely disappointed after the loss,” receiver Grant Perry said Monday.
“If we all stayed disappointed it wouldn’t be good for this week. We all agreed we’re going to move on and we’re going to take our frustrations out on Rutgers.”
Michigan is 2-2 in the Big East, tied with Rutgers. Still, they believe in the occasional upheavals in college football and if they win out, well, maybe things will actually shake out and the goals set at the start of the season will still be possible.
That is highly unlikely, but the Wolverines are not prepared to shelve their goals.
“Every team has goals at the beginning of the year,” Perry said. “Obviously our goal is to win the Big Ten and make the playoffs. Whether or not that’s a possibility, it’s still up in the air. Anything can happen. We’re going to keep playing like that’s our goal and just keep trying to win games and play well.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday at his weekly news conference that facing this sort of adversity gives his players an opportunity to understand where it needs to be and how to respond to this challenge.
“As coaches, we have to keep coaching ‘em, and the players have to find out what they’re made of from a competitive standpoint,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a great phrase, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ It’s cliche. Maybe you call it a cliche, but cliches are usually cliches because they’re true.
“We control a lot, and that’s the other thing I want them to find out. Understand that you control what you can control, and they control a lot. We control a lot as a ball club, where we want this to be and then work back from that.”
The players also can control what they tune out. They hear the criticism or read it on social media, but they’re choosing not to pay attention.
“I see retweets on Twitter, people panicking,” Perry said. “I just keep scrolling. I’m not worried. I know the guys in the locker room aren’t worried. We’re just going to go out and play our ball, and let the play decide what goes on.”
Tailback Ty Isaac said the mindset of the team has not wavered from the start of the season.
“Same as it was the first half,” Isaac said. “Play games, win games, get better every week. I don’t think that changes just because you’re losing games.
“I think it’s mostly the people outside the building who are panicking and getting really worried. We’re here every day. We know what it takes to win games. We’ve won games. We had a setback on Saturday. We’re going to come back and play tough against Rutgers. We’re going to practice hard all week.”
Isaac was asked if the older players need to talk to the younger players about dealing with the two loses and the negativity.
“The team protects the team, so it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old,” he said.
“We are all in this together, so it doesn’t matter if I’m a fifth year or we’ve got a true freshman playing. We are all invested the same in this season.”
After the loss at Penn State, which handled Michigan in every phase, quarterback John O’Korn referred to no more fake love and bandwagons. This is about the team now, and the Wolverines have turned to themselves as the rest of the season plays out.
“With any team and fan base, there’s going to be negative talk about it,” fullback Henry Poggi said Monday.
“That’s just the way it is. Everyone wants perfection, and when that doesn’t happen, people start falling off the ship. We know that no one on our team can fall off the ship. That’s what’s so important about being on a team is that when it comes down to it the most important thing is the players on the team and the coaches. We’ve just got to keep battling and get ready for Rutgers.”
Harbaugh is certain his team can rebound.
“I believe that our team will respond,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a standard that we have to play to and need to be at. But the opportunity to learn that and go through that, that’s a tremendous opportunity to get the team to where it needs to be.”
Rutgers at Michigan
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Records: Michigan 5-2, 2-2 Big Ten; Rutgers 3-4, 2-2
Line: Michigan by 23